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Legal observers back court ruling on Chinese police killer
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19:04, October 23, 2008

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Prominent Chinese law experts have lined up to support the guilty verdict and death sentence handed down to Yang Jia, the 28-year-old man who killed six police officers in Shanghai earlier this year.

The trial and appeal hearings were just and the procedures legal, said Zhao Bingzhi, director the Criminal Law Institute of the China Law Society.

Yang, a jobless Beijing resident, stormed into a Shanghai police station on July 1 and began stabbing people, reportedly in revenge for being detained on suspicion of stealing a bicycle.

He was sentenced to death on Sept. 1 in the first verdict by the Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court.

Yang later appealed the death penalty. On Oct. 20, the Shanghai Higher People's Court upheld the sentence.

Some people had commented on the Internet that Yang should have been shown leniency as he might have been treated unfairly by the police, but Zhao said Chinese law stipulated that a defendant should be shown leniency only if the crime was not serious.

However, investigations showed the police acted legally in their interrogation of Yang in October last year for riding an unlicensed bicycle, and there was no evidence of police assaulting him.

Yang unsuccessfully sued the officers for 10,000 yuan (1,464 U.S. dollars) for damages for psychological injury.

Zhao said there was no evidence of police wrongdoing or provocation that would justify Yang's killing of six innocent people.

"Even if he was treated unfairly and the police did do wrong, his crime was still too heinous and the death penalty was justified from the perspective of criminal law," he said.

Public attention also focused on whether Yang had psychological problems. Professor Chu Huaizhi, of Peking University law school, said the perception that people with mental problems could not be held criminally responsible was wrong.

Chu said that under Chinese law, only those who totally failed to recognize or had no control of their own behavior could escape prosecution.

A forensic psychiatric assessment conducted by a qualified institute commissioned by the police showed Yang was fully competent, he said.

"Judging from the premeditation and implementation of the murders and his performance during the hearings, Yang showed no sign of being mentally ill. His lawyers also said he was sober and logical."

From the confirmed facts and evidence, the death penalty was justified, Chu said. "Such fierce and cruel murders of innocent people, whatever the reason, would face capital punishment in any country."

Chen Weidong, a law professor with the China Renmin University, said although the lawyers defending Yang were appointed by the Shanghai lawyers association, they had Yang's approval.

The trials were open as more than 130 people, including Yang's relatives and reporters from almost 30 media organizations, attended the hearings, he said.

The death sentence verdict must be ratified by the Supreme People's Court in Beijing before Yang can be executed.

Yang stabbed a security guard at the police branch in Shanghai's Zhabei District and started a fire at its gate on July 1. He then forced his way into the building and attacked nine police officers with a knife, killing six of them. Four others were injured, including the guard.

He was apprehended at the scene and confessed to the killings.


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